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Article updated: 6/16/2013 5:54 PM

Good turnout in Lake Zurich for first Iron Girl triathlon

By Steve Zalusky

With endurance events, the measure of success is not a sprint, but a marathon.

By that standard, the inaugural Athleta Iron Girl Triathlon, held Sunday morning at Lake Zurich's Paulus Park, passed the test.

The event, one in a series of 19 Iron Girl events nationwide, attracted 305 finishers.

Sarah Frey, event manager, said it was a good turnout for the first year, and will lead to another Iron Girl triathlon here next year.

"It's just a perfect fit," she said. "(Lake Zurich) is a great place for a triathlon."

Frey said the one-third mile swim course is 99 percent calm, while the 14-mile bike offers some challenging hills, and the 3-mile run along the lake is "gorgeous."

Adding to the enjoyment was the camaraderie of the women.

"Everyone's looking out for each other," Frey said. "If someone forgot to take a water bottle on their bike, another athlete's going to take a water bottle and give it to that other person."

Frey's sentiments were echoed by Marsha McCreary, 37, from the Barrington/Lake Zurich area, who took third in the 35-39 category with a time of one hour, 17 minutes and 30 seconds.

"I like to do the women-only races. It has a different sort of atmosphere than the coed races. It tends to be a lot more supportive. You pass someone and you (they say), 'Good job. Keep it up. Good going.' The camaraderie's great."

As for the race itself, she said, "I felt like everything was hilly and into wind. But it was a good race. A well-run race. A lot of really strong athletes here."

For her efforts, McCreary won a pendant that read, "Every girl has an iron core."

The overall winner was Aneta Ziemianska, 33, of Streamwood, with a time of one hour, 10 minutes and 56 seconds.

Ziemianska, originally from Poland, said she had a particularly strong run and enjoyed the course, calling it "challenging."

Participants spanned all age groups, including Susan Rowland, 63, of Barrington, who finished third in the 60-64 age group, with an overall time of one hour, 53 minutes and nine seconds.

"Every year it gets harder," said Rowland, who has competed for about four years in similar events. "Kids were grown, and it's time to do something different."

The most fun part, she said, was "finishing."

Jennifer Marston, of Glen Ellyn, said she has run the Chicago Marathon six times and wanted to try something different.

One of the challenges, she said, was getting used to running after an hourlong bike ride. Marston also enjoyed the fact that it was an all-women event.

"You don't have to worry about men passing you and that whole intimidation factor," she said.

The event was nostalgic for two Lake Zurich High School graduates from 1995, Jennifer Carlsen Hutchens and Katie Sheehan.

"I went to Louisville, Kentucky on a track scholarship and I have never come back, except for this. It was nostalgic to swim in the lake that we grew up in, to bike Lake Zurich and then to run around the lake," Hutchens said.

Their high school coach also came out to watch them, she said.

Sheehan, a Round Lake resident, was satisfied with her performance, declaring with a laugh, "I'm alive and I didn't drown and had fun."

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